Using Chemical Drugs and Medicinal Plants for Symptom Management among Patients Receiving Chemotherapy

Document Type : Original Article



Background: Patients with cancer suffer from different symptoms which can cause discomfort, reduce quality of life, necessitate frequent hospitalization, and impose heavy costs. Health‑care providers sometimes overlook symptom management, and hence, patients resort to self‑treatment. Objectives: This study sought to assess the use of chemical drugs and medicinal plants for the symptom management among patients receiving chemotherapy. Methods: This cross‑sectional study was conducted in 2017 on 186 cancer patients who referred to two chemotherapy centers in Kashan, Iran. Data were collected using a researcher‑made instrument consisted of items on demographic characteristics, symptoms, symptom severity and duration, use of chemical drugs and medicinal plants, and their perceived effectiveness. Data were presented using the measures of descriptive statistics and were analyzed using the Spearman’s correlation analysis. Results: The most common symptom was fatigue (89.2%), with moderate severity in 51.2% of participants. The least common symptom was vomiting (24.2%), with mild severity in 62.2% of participants. Vitamins and supplements were the most commonly used chemical drugs (40.3%). Chemical drugs had mostly been recommended by health‑care providers. Only, 50% of patients with pain and 12.2% of patients with dry mouth and oral ulcer used chemical drugs. Medicinal plants were used by 87.4% of participants, without medical prescription. Conclusion: Cancer patients suffer from many symptoms which need careful assessment and effective management by health‑care providers. These patients use medicinal plants more commonly than chemical drugs for symptom management, whereas chemical drugs are more effective. Symptom management among cancer patients is not effective enough, and hence, most of them resort to over‑the‑counter medicinal plants.